Because the Black Panthers were created and developed in black neighborhoods, identitarians assume the Panthers were a racial organization. This makes as much sense as assuming that because Marx and Engels were Europeans, Marxism is “white”.
You could argue that the Black Panthers began with a racial focus. You cannot argue that they did not quickly move past focusing on race to focusing on class, just as Du Bois, King, and Malcolm X did. Their words make this clear:
“Working class people of all colors must unite against the exploitative, oppressive ruling class. Let me emphasize again — we believe our fight is a class struggle, not a race struggle.” — Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party
“First of all, we say primarily that the priority of this struggle is class. That Marx, and Lenin, and Che Guevara, and Mao Tse-Tung — and anybody else that has ever said or knew or practiced anything about revolution, always said that revolution is a class struggle. It was one class — the oppressed — and that other class — the oppressor. And it’s got to be a universal fact. Those that don’t admit to that are those that don’t want to get involved in a revolution.” — Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party
“Those who want to obscure the struggle with ethnic differences are the ones who are aiding and maintaining the exploitation of the masses of the people: poor whites, poor blacks, browns, red Indians, poor Chinese and Japanese… We do not fight exploitative capitalism with black capitalism. We fight capitalism with basic socialism.” — Bobby Seale
“We got to face some facts. That the masses are poor, that the masses belong to what you call the lower class, and when I talk about the masses, I’m talking about the white masses, I’m talking about the black masses, and the brown masses, and the yellow masses, too. We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you don’t fight capitalism with no black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.” — Fred Hampton
“I dissuade Party members from putting down people who do not understand. Even people who are unenlightened and seemingly bourgeois should be answered in a polite way. Things should be explained to them as fully as possible. I was turned off by a person who did not want to talk to me because I was not important enough. Maurice just wanted to preach to the converted, who already agreed with him. I try to be cordial, because that way you win people over. You cannot win them over by drawing the line of demarcation, saying you are on this side and I am on the other; that shows a lack of consciousness. After the Black Panther Party was formed, I nearly fell into this error. I could not understand why people were blind to what I saw so clearly. Then I realized that their understanding had to be developed.” ―Huey P. Newton
Bonus Huey Newton quotes:
From a 1970 speech:
“When we have revolutionary conferences, rallies, and demonstrations, there should be full participation of the gay liberation movement and the women’s liberation movement.” — Huey Newton
From a 1968 interview:
There are two kinds of nationalism, revolutionary nationalism and reactionary nationalism. Revolutionary nationalism is first dependent upon a people’s revolution with the end goal being the people in power. Therefore to be a revolutionary nationalist you would by necessity have to be a socialist. It you are a reactionary nationalist you are not a socialist and your end goal is the oppression of the people.
Cultural nationalism, or pork chop nationalism, as I sometimes call it, is basically a problem of having the wrong political perspective. It seems to be a reaction instead of responding to political oppression. The cultural nationalists are concerned with returning to the old African culture and thereby regaining their identity and freedom. In other words, they feel that the African culture will automatically bring political freedom. Many times cultural nationalists fall into line as reactionary nationalists.
Papa Doc in Haiti is an excellent example of reactionary nationalism. He oppresses the people but he does promote the African culture. He’s against anything other than black, which on the surface seems very good, but for him it is only to mislead the people. He merely kicked out the racists and replaced them with himself as the oppressor. Many of the nationalists in this country seem to desire the same ends.
…The Black Panther Party is a revolutionary Nationalist group and we see a major contradiction between capitalism in this country and our interests. We realize that this country became very rich upon slavery and that slavery is capitalism in the extreme. We have two evils to fight, capitalism and racism. We must destroy both racism and capitalism.
…The Black bourgeoisie seem to be acting in the role of the house Negro. They are pro-administration. They would like a few concessions made, but as far as the overall setup, they have a little more material goods, a little more advantage, a few more privileges than the black have-nots; the lower class. And so they identify with the power structure and they see their interests as the power structure’s interest. In fact, it’s against their interest.
…The [black] cultural nationalist doesn’t understand the [white] revolutionaries because he can’t see why anyone white would turn on the system So they think that maybe this is some more hypocrisy being planted by white people. I personally think that there are many young white revolutionaries who are sincere in attempting to realign themselves with mankind, and to make a reality out the high moral standards that their fathers and forefathers only expressed.